Sunday, June 30, 2013

Masterpiece of the Week: A Mother-of-Pearl Spectacle Case and Spectacles, 1685-1688

Spectacle Case
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I think this is very pretty, and I’d never have guessed that it is as old as it is. Here, we see a French spectacle case of painted and gilded mother-of-pearl. The case was donated to the V&A still containing a pair of folding spectacles, of tortoise-shell and silver. The spectacles were actually made later in the Eighteenth Century.

The case itself was made in the shape of a pair of spectacles with a high, arched bridge. It is crafted of two sheets of mother-of-pearl, joined by a narrow, molded, strip of silver around the sides and base of the case. One surface of the mother-of-pearl is painted in red, green and yellow with a floral design springing from a trellised flower pot centered on each lens.

This case may have belonged to James II. The painted mother-of-pearl case is of the very highest quality and would have only been available to someone of Royal or noble birth. A letter that accompanied the spectacles, from the Eighteenth Century, describes how the case passed from James's son, the Old Pretender, through several hands, until it came into the possession of a Mr. Walker in 1770.

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